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The “I am Third” Approach for Lent

March 5th, 2012by Steve Feldmann

A while back, a friend gave me some Catholic CDs.  I’ve had them tucked away in the nether-reaches of my car ever since.  Last week, I was bumper-to-bumper on I-75, so I pulled one out and stuck it in the dash.  It was a talk by Fr. Larry Richards, a well-known speaker who offers a great deal of practical advice on becoming closer to Christ.  He focuses on building an intimate and close relationship with our Lord.

In between yelling at one driver who had just cut me off and a trucker who had allowed six car lengths to open up in front of him, I was struck by something in particular.  Fr. Richards preaches an “I am Third” approach to life.  It pertains to our focus in life.  Who or what do we focus on?  Fr. Richards is straightforward.  Our focus should be – God, first; others, second; and self, third.  But how many of us live this way?

I pondered this point deeply while slamming on my brakes for the twentieth time, barely avoiding crashing into the car in front of me.  As I hit the gas again, I realized that the practices of Lent are intended for us to live this “I am Third” approach.  Prayer, fasting and almsgiving are directed at bringing us closer to Christ and each other.  In these practices, we break down the self-centeredness that poisons our divine and human relationships.

My focus shot back to the road as the lane next to me started to open up and I tried to look for a way to get over.  I saw my chance and swooshed into the middle lane, only to have to thump my brakes again.  Returning to Fr. Richards, I heard him say that we don’t live this “I am Third” approach if we are so self-centered that when others look at us they see – us.  To the contrary, they should see Christ in us.

Moving again, I inched slowly past the cars in the other lanes and started looking at the faces behind the wheels – realizing that each was dealing with their own life issues and most certainly struggling against darkness, weakness and sin in some form; yet, also realizing that Christ was beckoning each to live in a close, personal relationship with him and to be his face to others.

We are not anonymous statistics, generalized demographic groups, two-dimensional images on the screen or page, or featureless faces in the crowd.  We are individuals made in the likeness and image of God.  We have an innate human dignity and are called to have respect for others and ourselves.

My hands lightened on the wheel and my shoulders relaxed as I decided to focus on the “I am Third” approach during Lent – remembering that everyone is a child of God and serving all with respect, compassion and charity; allowing others to see Christ in me.

Of course, I guess I better start with my driving.

Steve Feldmann

Steve Feldmann is the Director of Agency Advancement for Catholic Charities SouthWestern Ohio. He is married with four children (two of whom are foster sons) and a parishioner of St. Maximilian Kolbe Parish in Liberty Township.